Friday, September 15, 2017


This is amusing:
The California State Assembly on Thursday passed a bill that would require all presidential candidates to release their tax returns prior to being placed on the state’s ballot.

The bill, called the Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act, passed the state Assembly on a 42-18 vote and will now head to the state Senate for a concurrence vote before being sent to the governor for his signature.
You'd think this would force President Trump to come clean, assuming it passes the state senate and is signed by Governor Jerry Brown. But there's less to the bill than this summary suggests.

If you take a look at the text of the bill, you'll see that it specifically limits this requirement to presidential primaries:
SB 149, as amended, McGuire. Presidential primary elections: ballot access....

6883. (a) Notwithstanding any other law, the Secretary of State shall not print the name of a candidate for President of the United States on a primary election ballot, unless the candidate, within a reasonable timeframe established by the Secretary of State, files with the Secretary of State a copy of every income tax return the candidate filed with the Internal Revenue Service in the five most recent taxable years.

(b) If the candidate has not filed his or her income tax return with the Internal Revenue Service for the tax year immediately preceding the primary election, he or she shall submit a copy of the income tax return to the Secretary of State within five days of filing the return with the Internal Revenue Service.
Donald Trump is an incumbent president with extremely high approval ratings within his party. How likely is it that he'll even have a serious primary challenger in 2020, assuming he's still in office and decides to run?

And if he does have a primary challenger and still has no intention of releasing his tax returns ("Sorry, folks, this audit is taking forever!"), he just needs to obtain ballot access for a stand-in candidate who does release his or her tax returns, and who promises to ask any delegates he or she wins to vote for Trump at the convention. This candidate could be anyone -- it could be someone who's legally changed his name to, say, Ronald J. Trump, just to be sure the voters understand the "vote for me if you want to vote for him" premise.

The bill doesn't cover the general election, presumably because, as Ballotpedia notes, "California state law stipulates that 'the secretary of state shall cause the names of the candidates for president and vice president of the several political parties to be placed upon the ballot for the ensuing general election.'" In other words, California doesn't claim the right to bounce the major parties' general-election candidates from its ballot. I imagine there'd be a GOP lawsuit if the state tried.

And would it matter? Trump's not going to win California anyway. Of course, the GOP would want someone running in his place, in the hope of turning out voters for any winnable downballot races. Ballotpedia notes that California has a "sore loser" law, which says that a candidate who runs in a primary and loses can't run under a different party banner in the general election. However, sore loser laws have generally been seen as not applying in presidential elections; Roseanne Barr, a failed candidate for the Green Party nomination, appeared on the 2012 California ballot as the presidential candidate of the Peace and Freedom Party.

So if California were able to keep Donald Trump off the general election ballot, Ronald Trump could probably run as an independent -- and his electors, in the unlikely event he won any, could agree in advance to give the Electoral College votes to Donald.

So I think we'll have to find another way to get at those tax returns.

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